Karissa was still screaming when I was dragged into the prison, untied and shoved hard into the cell. I fell exhausted onto the stone floor, wincing at the pain in my knees, back, feet. The cell door slammed shut behind me and I curled up on the floor, hugging my knees, my head reeling, listening to Karissa screaming below. I closed my eyes against the pain of her cries.
“You will stay here until I can arrange for you to be taken to the capital and be judged by the Queen’s court, priest,” Sands said, holstering his pistol.
“Is that really what you want?” I asked him. “For the Queen to know what you did? For her to learn you would handfast a maiden before your wedding to the countess?”
“She will only know what I tell her. She will hear it from me,” he snickered. “Do you really expect a fair trial, priest? You may not even make it to the capital.”
“What are the charges, mae laird?” Gregor asked.
“Attacking the Warden of North March, Gregor,” Bryantt told him.
“I should have killed you when I had the chance,” I told Bryantt.
“You had your chance, priest, and you missed it. I should kill you right here, but I am a civilized man.” He then turned to Gregor. “No one is to see him. No one. I do not trust him and neither should you. He is mad.”
Sands turned and left, laughing under his breath, but from the hall I could hear shouting, and a minute later the Countess entered with Sands behind her, swearing at her.
“Ya canna be here,” Gregor told her, trying to steer her back out the door, but the woman insisted on staying. She turned to me and asked, “Father, what have you done?”
I could hear Sands bellowing at her from the hall.
Gregor, true to the last, looked on me with compassion, and from his small sack pulled out a small prayer book and rosary and placed them on the floor next to the bars. “Ye forgot these,” he muttered, “ye stupid goat.” Then he looked back at the woman. “Countess, tae warden gave orders that no one was tae see tae prisoner.”
“I am the countess and this is my castle and I will see whom I wish,” she told him.
As they argued, I clasped the book and rosary in my hands. Suddenly, I felt ill, as if every cell in my body was erupting. The words of every sermon I’d ever written or given swirled about in my head. I pressed the book and rosary tight to my chest and began to rock, trying to calm myself. My eyes closed tight, I felt the heat of my tears break through. My heart exploded and I sobbed, clinging to wisps of sanity in a mire of pain.
“Damn him!” Bryantt yelled from somewhere downstairs.
“Father,” the countess asked, looking on me. “How come you to this sorry state?”
“And they shall rain fire and brimstone down on them, the heathens, the adulterers, the thieves, all manner of sinners shall perish,” I muttered, lost in the sermons in my mind. I closed his eyes but I couldn’t drive Karissa’s pain filled face from my thoughts. I was the thief. I had stolen her. I had taken her. I had sinned, and now she was paying for it.
The countess turned to Gregor. “Is he okay? Sick? Fevered? Has he been looked at?” she asked.
“Though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil….” I intoned.
“Mae lady, tae warden stated he is to be taken to the capital for trial. Surely he is nae in proper mind. He does need to be seen with someone that knows such things,” Gregor said.
The lady turned and marched out of the room and for a few minutes it seemed all would be quiet, but then she returned, bearing food and a goblet of wine. Over Gregor’s objections, she set them down at the cell and pushed them towards me.
I could not stomach to eat nor drink. The thought that her food was bought with Bryantt’s wealth, and that his wealth came from Karissa’s body. It was more than I could bare. Didn’t they know? Didn’t they understand what they were doing to her? To me? How poisoned was this world that they could not taste their own sins in their bread? I shouldn’t have stopped at the brothel. I should have burned the whole village down and rooted out the source of the evil. I grasped the goblet and threw it hard at the bars, shattering the glass about the floor. “Though they beg for mercy, no mercy shall be given them!” I screamed. I grabbed the broken glass and crushed it in my hand, the shards embedding in my palm, blood oozing from my fingers. For a brief moment the pain of the cut glass broke through my nightmare, but only for a moment.
It was then that Sands came back into the room. “I told you, no one was to see him,” he yelled at Gregor. Then he turned to the countess. “Come, Vivienne.”
The countess approached the cell, furious. “What have I ever done to you that you would fling my offering of wine back at me?”
“He is mad beyond measure,” Gregor said softly.
“it is time for answers, Bryantt,” she said, turning on the Warden. “Some one had better tell me what is going on here.”
“No one, I said, Gregor. No one!” Sands yelled.
“I am the Countess. I rule here,” she yelled at Sands.
“She is tae countess,” Gregor confirmed.
“I am the law here,” Bryantt snapped. “Come, Vivienne. I will not have you around this lying man.”
As Bryantt led the Countess away, I kissed the cross of the rosary and began to pray.
When they were finally alone, Gregor turned to me and said, “See? Ya could have been a Franciscan. They nae have this sorta shite happen to them. But nae! Ye got to be a ruddy Jesuit. Ye better survive this shite because when ye get better I’m gonna beat the living shite out of ye and send ye on a one way trip tae a monastery.”
I glanced at Gregor and saw his pain, anger and bewilderment. For the first time since waking up with a musket at my head, I smiled. “Take care of her, Gregor. That’s all that matters. Who knows. Maybe a monastery is what I need.”
“Ye know I will,” Gregor said quietly.
I laid back on the floor, covered in blood from my hands, grasping the prayer book and beads, the tears filling my eyes.