Word Count 499
By Sharon Collins
Père Jean, Grand-mère’s gracious friend, appeared in the doorway of her dreaming. “It is time Isobel! She and the others must attend me now!” With quick kisses, moist upon both cheeks and the whispered word, “Demori,” lingering in her ears, Geneviève bade farewell to her beloved Grand-mère. Obediently, she joined Hèléne and Marie-Claude just inside the gates of Montsegur as dawn broke on March 16, 1244
Following Père Jean through the gates and past the Pope’s guards, Geneviève could not help but marvel at his most unusual display of richly embroidered attire. Where was his simple, dark blue robe? ‘Who was this powerful figure to whom the soldiers bowed? Why were they addressing him as, “Your Excellence?’ None of these wonderings did she give voice to. The tension in the two hands holding hers kept her silent. Thus it was that, that Père Jean, L’Évêque, the Bishop, led the littlest heretics away from the pyres and out of recorded history.
Climbing down Montsegur is harder than climbing up it. Its steepness and treacherous stones tempt delicate ankles to twist and snap when mornings are clear and eyes are tear-free. But the smoke that clogged the spring air stung tear-filled eyes making a safe descent impossible. Marie-Claude lost her footing first. Grasping the hood of Hèléne’s cloak in desperation, they both tumbled down the sharp incline. Coming to rest in a tangle, both scrambled to their feet, bruised and in muddy disarray. Geneviève helped straighten their cloaks and pick the blue-green pine needles from their har.
“Beware mes petites colombes; you cannot truly fly and it is a long way down,” cautioned Père Jean. His nickname (my little doves) for the trio, brought the only smiles that would shine on this most tragic of days.
Despite the desperate urgency of their flight, Père Jean ushered his little flock, back up the path to where a side trail split off. Around a hairpin turn was a small clearing, used in happier times by merchants to store their wares as bundles were ferried up the final ascent. There he let the girls catch their breath but refused their questioning eyes. With their hoods thrown back, it seemed as if three halos gleamed in the hazy dawn. ‘Angels, not doves,’ he mused; ‘one golden-blonde, one bright-copper, and one burnished-brown.’ Lifting hands in prayer he whispered, “Thy will be done. God’s will, not mine.”
Acceptance had been the hardest lesson for Jean. He had battled the outcome of this day for so long…since Béziers and Minerve, three decades of fire and grief. Today that struggle would end and fade like the smoke-filled breeze into memory. Tomorrow, a new and more subtle campaign would begin, and its warriors would not be tired, old priests; they would be little girls. His young charges, so different in appearance and personality, but united by blood, a very special line of blood, were destined to become the newest Soldiers of The Way. Keeping them safe was his sacred vow.