Word Count 499
Laurel Doves Chapter 2
By Sharon Collins
Geneviève’s restless mind settled on her youngest traveling companions. Both girls had been waiting under the sacred Laurel Tree on that tragic day. The sprite-like Lisette and the very, very quiet Giselle had each been trained in The Way and were also under Père Jean’s protection. Despite their unusual ways, she had grown to love and trust them. Lisette, who spoke with spirits and Giselle, who spoke with horses became her fast and true friends on their two month journey away from Montsegur to their new home at Le Couvent of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume. Now that she had met Virginie, and discovered the owner of the sixth, sacred laurel leaf, Genevieve believed the circle of their sisterhood to be complete. They were anonymous now; they had each other, and they were safe.
Letting her musings deepen into memory… Geneviève’s was once again atop Montsegur, and dawn had not yet broken on July 22nd. Grand-mère was fretting, and her Grand-mère did not fret. Combing the tangles from Geneviève’s waist-length hair, she grumbled under her breath. “C’est impossible! We are beyond the reach of La Malvoisine!” Montforte’s trebuchet, nicknamed the Bad Neighbor and his brutal, summertime attack thirty-four years ago on Minerve, the city of her birth, still brought nightmare visions to Grand-mère’s sleep. She had been away that terrible summer visiting family with her infant daughter, Geneviéve’s mother. Upon her return she had dared to climb down into the deep gorge to mourn at the grave of more than 150 beautiful Cathar souls . The horror of their charred and scattered remains brutally trampled into the riverside mud, nightly haunted her dreams.
“We have the protection of the nobles; we are safe from the Pope’s fires. The soldiers cannot reach us here, not at Montsegur our safe-mountain!!!” Each exclamation was punctuated by another rake of the wooden comb, the friction causing sparks to snap and crackle along its length. ‘My braids will last an eternity,’ she was tempted to tease, but the sorrow in Grand-mère’s sighs kept her silent. The tension building within Montesegur’s walls, the last of the Cathar strongholds, had reached a breaking point in recent days. As difficult as the ten siege months had been, that morning’s air of utter despair, was far, far worse. The Perfecti had stopped smiling and humming. No matter the chill or hunger, the Teachers had always warmed the air with gentle smiles and filled the ears (if not the bellies) of the few Cathar children sheltered among them with song. Geneviève was both freezing and starving that morning.
Finally finished with the second braid, Grand-mère gave one last, sharp tug. “Such a lovely chestnut is your hair, granddaughter, anot faded red like mine. It is blessing to be sure.” The only girl within the stronghold walls lacking the signature auburn or blonde hair of so many Cathar women, Geneviève rued the plainness of her brown tresses. Thus Grand-mère’s odd compliment, although precious to her tall and solemn granddaughter, was tainted with foreboding.