‘I am the Bishop of Palmiers, I suspect you of being a Cathar’ he said
He reached across the desk and picked up a bible. Ximene was dragged forward by the men holding he arms.
‘Place your hand on the bible.’ Ximene did so.
‘Now swear, in the name of God, that you believe in one God, three persons in one indivisible God.
Ximene knew, for she had been taught well, that this was a double test, which had been used in the past to identify Cathars. Cathars thought it blasphemous to call on the Good God to witness an oath, which no matter its subject was a material earthly matter. Also the subject of the oath was contrary to Cathar beliefs. They believed there were two Gods
Ximene had been taught not to have scruples in these matters. All oaths were worldly issues and therefore were of little concern to those whose true focus should be on spiritual issues. She was therefore able to look the Bishop in the eye and make the required oath.
‘I swear in the name of God’
She was surprised to find that the words were sticking in her throat. She simply thought of the Bad God.
‘That I believe in one God, three persons in one indivisible God’
The Bishop was clearly disappointed. His training had told him this was the way to trap Cathars. He tried once more.
‘Now swear, in the name of God that without the support of his holy church you will be condemned to hell, a place of eternal suffering. In particular your salvation can only be assured through the holy grace gained by participation in God’s seven sacraments.’
Ximene found it difficult to keep a look of scorn crossing her face. She believed that the material world was hell. The objective was to escape from hell! The sacraments were empty material ceremonials full of candles, incense, jewelled artefacts and gold vestments, all part of the material world. Nevertheless she summoned up all her resolve and made the necessary oath.
Again the bishop showed his disappointment perhaps even frustration.
He returned to the issue which he felt had betrayed Ximene initially.
‘Do you swear in God’s name that you believe that sexual pleasure should be reserved only for the procreation of children and then only within the holy sacrament of marriage?’
Ximene’s eyes bulged. Marriage was a worldly affair concerned with wealth, inheritance and the retention of worldly power. This was not of any concern to the Good God. As for sexual pleasure, she knew this was the Good God’s way to give us a taste of what the reunion with him might be like. Sexual pleasure without children was the ideal for which she had been trained. Every new child dragged another piece of the Good God down into the Bad God’s material world.
Nevertheless she once again forced herself to make the oath, albeit not very convincingly. The Bishop looked at her gravely.
‘I can find no fault in you. From now on I will have no influence over your interrogation. Nevertheless I find you less than convincing so I will therefore send you for further interrogation by the Holy Inquisition. I will leave it to the Inquisition to decide whether you have a case to answer.’
He spoke to the men holding Ximene,
‘Take her away, my clerk will make arrangements.’
The men dragged Ximene from the room and were escorting her back to the room where she had initially been confined. Half way down the corridor they met Gerade. He had a black eye which spread over half his face and a bruised chin which ended in a badly split lip.
The men told him that Ximene was to be sent to the Inquisition. A dreadful malicious grin spread across Thomas face.
‘She is to be sent to the Inquisition? Well then, she will just vanish and probably will be burnt at the stake. In the meantime we can do exactly what we like with her. Tie her over the table in the office. I will take her first and after that anyone else who wants to can have their turn.
Ximene had no illusions about what they were planning. She fought as hard as she could but was dragged back into the room where she had originally been incarcerated. She had not noticed it before but against one wall in the otherwise bare room was a lightweight clerical desk. The desk was pulled into the middle of the room. She fought against her captors so well that they summoned help from the corridor. Then and only then were they able to tie her legs to the legs of the table. Once her legs were spread far apart she found it difficult to balance and it was then easy to pull her across the table and tie her hands under the table at the far side. There were now four men around her admiring their handiwork. She felt rather than heard Gerade enter the room.
‘Leave us now’ he said.
‘I will let you know when I have finished.’
Ximene heard the door close and felt Gerade’s hands on her legs. She realised it was now or never. Using the strength born of intensive training she straightened up lifting the table clear of the floor. Without Gerade realising what was happening she reached a standing position and then crashed the table back into the floor with all the force she could muster. The table shattered. She raised and crashed it down once more.
She found herself free. Her hands were bound together by a relatively long piece of rope and the shattered table legs were still attached to her ankles but she was free! However, Thomas was still holding her. She swivelled round and as John had taught her put her arm around his neck pulling him closer. She then gripped his chin and stepping back at exactly the right moment, pushed against his body with the other hand and used all her strength to pull his chin at right angles to his neck. As John had predicted Gerade actually assisted her by trying to move away at the critical moment. She heard his neck break. He stiffened, paralysed. She had the satisfaction of briefly seeing the terror in his eyes as he realised he could not breathe. Seconds later he dropped to the floor. Ximene watched as he writhed for a few seconds and then lay still.
She stood over the him, the two of legs of the desk were still attached to her ankles.
She muttered to herself.
‘Well done Ximene, Take this as an example of how you should deal with all your enemies.’
She breathed deeply.
‘From this moment on I will bring only honour to my name and to the realm of Occitan.’