Eleanor Garcia de Pedilla tried hard to look her father in the eye.
‘I have given Raimon my favor. Is that not enough? I have now accepted him as my lover, and he is a good and attentive lover, but I do not want to marry him.’
Her father breathed his frustration so deeply that it echoed around the room. He strode towards his daughter arms outstretched. His first few steps produced a staccato echo, which only ceased when left the stone floor, and crossed the carpet on which his daughter was standing. He grasped her by both shoulders, pulling her in so that her face was pressed firmly against his chest. He then gently lifted himself away. Now it was he who sought eye contact.
‘No, Eleanor, it is not enough.’
Eleanor looked at him quizzically. It was not his style to tell her what to do. He responded to the unspoken question. Gently he stroked her shoulder and upper arm. He spoke gently, sympathetically.‘What do you think has been the biggest change I have seen during my lifetime?’
Eleanor gave the question due consideration.‘Probably the Reconquista, the defeat of the Moors.’
Her father laughed. ‘No, that was considerably before I was born,’ he put a finger to his lips. ‘but strangely enough you are right.’
He hesitated, obviously thinking about the right words to use. ‘Since the Moors have been driven back to Andalucia in the far south, the Roman Church has come like a flock of vultures picking over the casualties. Until recently in Castile and even here in Aragon, they have been more of a nuisance than a threat.’
There was now pain and frustration in his voice.
‘But their power steadily grows.Now the Inquisition is transferring its murderous work from Occitan. Therefore the major change I have seen is the ever increasing persecution of Cathars, those who share our faith.’
Eleanor demeanor was still questioning. ‘And I have been taught well how to attend Roman Sacraments, how to conceal my own beliefs from non believers’
Her father winced. ‘They make progress every day, already we are forced to build secret rooms and soon these will be the only places we can discuss our beliefs.’
Eleanor turned away, gazing at meadows and mountains beyond.‘But as threatening as this may be what has it to do with any question of my marrying Raimon?’
Her father smiled but it was an icy smile. ‘You are now twenty-two years of age and you will come under suspicion if you do not marry soon. The Church of Rome knows that we place less importance on marriage than we do on affairs of the heart. If you do not go through their ceremony of marriage, then they will become evermore attentive to your affairs.’
I should have married Guillam,’ she said, sadness softening her voice.
‘Never possible. After they burned his mother at the stake, he himself was under suspicion but even that was irrelevant, he wanted revenge. I really liked Guillam, but now he is lost to both of us. He has gone to fight a war he cannot win.’
Eleanor sighed but again turned to face her father.
‘I find it difficult to accept that ours is a hopeless cause, but it is true, his last words to me were that he would dedicate his life to fighting the Church of Rome. He believes it is probable he will die as a martyr.’ She hesitated. ‘So now, if I must marry, it must be to someone else. But why Raimon Trencavel?’
‘First and foremost because you enjoy being with him, it shows. But also because he is the rightful heir to the lands of Occitan, and to the Comptes of Razes, Beziers, Albi, Toulouse and Carcassonne. His heirs will inherit his rights.’
‘But he himself has no interest in those somewhat empty claims. The Franks are firmly in control of his lands.’
‘Not as firmly as you might think. The King of the Franks is a long way away, beyond the Montagne Noir and the Central Massif in the cold north. It is quite possible that things could change, Occitan could reclaim its independance. If the lands do come back to Raimon’s family, it must be to a Cathar family so that the faith may be re-established. You Eleanor could provide that family and bring it up with Cathar fervour.’
Eleanor’s eyes widened with understanding.‘So you expect me to bear his children?’
‘Of course, it is important that they are brought up in the Cathar faith. I would trust you, above anyone else to stay true to that objective.’
Eleanor found herself blushing. ‘But I must say again he has no such ambitions, he has told me…’ She dropped her eyes. ‘In an intimate moment when I am sure he would have been telling the truth, he has told me that he has only returned to the Pyrenees because he loves these lands.’
‘And I must say again that circumstances can be changed. If Occitan were to break away from the Franks it could be possible to set up a haven where the faith could thrive. Those who are heirs to the Trencavel lands could and would play a leading role.
Eleanor shook her head, but then slowly raised her head to the ceiling before lowering her gaze to focus on her father’s eyes and nodding. ‘I will think about it Father. I promise you I will give it serious consideration. I hear what you say but I must think about it. Deep inside I know he is not the man I am looking for. I sometimes see a very special man in my dreams, a very special man who does have the power to change the “circumstances”’
He father nodded sadly. ‘In your dreams’
They embraced again, enjoying a quiet moment of contemplation and compassion.
Slowly, regretfully, he pulled himself away. ‘They have set a date for burning Guilliaume Belibaste.’