It was one thing to feel betrayed and yet another to feel like a fool.
As Barnard sat on the stone floor of the prison in Tanninhold, he thought back on the series of events that had brought him to this point.
He’d had a fever, one that lasted nearly three weeks. He remembered that, vaguely. He remembered Sr. Agatha tending to him. He remembered Karissa coming to see him. He remembered the dreams. The rest was a blur.
When he recovered, he began to assess his station in life. He had witnessed the murder of his mother and had killed the man who had killed her – his father by blood but nothing else. He had escaped that nightmare by becoming a soldier. The blood was already on his hands, what did a little more matter?
But as the death and violence filled his life, he had sought to escape it. With the help of his good friend Gregor, he found himself on the steps of the seminary. Perhaps here he could find some peace.
The nightmares haunted him. The blood was never far away and every so often he would touch the scar on his chest and remember.
Karissa came at him out of nowhere. He had not expected to feel as he had for her – the passion, the lust, the desire. It had overwhelmed him. In true Jesuit fashion, he had tried to beat it out of himself, but she had put an end to that when she tried to whip herself in response. He thought she was someone who would understand his needs. He thought she would abandon her life, the same life his mother had led, would come to her senses and would join him.
When she told him she was handfasting Bryantt, Barnard was furious. He saw in her the same pattern he’d seen in his mother, letting herself be used by a man of wealth and power, to be discarded for someone of higher station, to be left begging for his attention until, in a fit of rage, he would kill her the way Barnard’s mother had been killed.
Barnard watched as a mouse made its way along the edge of the wall in the prison, seeking some kind of shelter. He envied that mouse. It didn’t know heartache or understand murder or live haunted with the past. It just was – a being of the moment.
He had offered up everything to Karissa: his priesthood, his parish, his home, even marriage. But all she could say was, “I’m sorry.” He hadn’t understood what that meant at first, but as time went on, he did. She loved Bryantt. She wouldn’t leave him. She wanted to turn back the clock to when Barnard was still a priest in Roxeter and she had the best of both worlds.
When he understood what had happened, Barnard shielded himself with the armor of anger. He could accept her pleas that she had not intended to hurt him, but he had been hurt. He had committed sins and crimes for her, and now he was going to pay for it.
He’d been a fool.
He looked up as Desire entered the prison, bringing him some clean clothes and some food. She hid her face from him, but he could tell she’d been crying. She had screamed at him when he’d surrendered to Maverick, but it was the right thing to do. And it was time he started doing the right thing again, no matter the cost.
He reached through the bars and took her hand to reassure her. “It will be alright,” he said quietly.
She stayed with him as long as she could, crying and pleading for him to find another way. But there was no other way.
The path or redemption is through the fire of trial. That trial was like the sun rising over the horizon, steady and unrelenting in its course.