I.I - Hugh at Bonneval Abbey



In the House of the LORD; Bonneval Abbey

Hugh of Murat

It was after Terce that Hugh now found himself in the presence of his master, Friedrich of the Palatinate, in a section of the library reserved for theological discussion. The older monk was considered by many of their order and beyond as a wise man; Hugh, by extension, was therefore considered to be lucky to find himself the novice to Friedrich.

he had not initially felt lucky; their relationship had begun somewhat poorly. Friedrich was an intellectual and theologian of the highest sort, a master of rhetoric and logic. His career had begun in the service of the Elector Palatinate where his advice was considered sage, even at a young age.

Hugh, on the other hand, was of peasant stock. His people were farmers since time immemorial in the Auvergne. While he barely remembered his father and mother, he did recall that they sacrificed greatly to put him among the number of the Cistercians so that he could avoid the tumultuous conflict his countrymen found themselves in against the English. While it was no guarantee that they had saved him from the chaos of the wars, he liked to believe so; it made their sacrifice more Christ-like.

Their pairing did not seem to be divinely ordained. It was natural then from their backgrounds that Friedrich and Hugh had many miscommunications early on. It seemed at times that, while they were discussing the same topic, Friedrich's words had so many different meanings Hugh could not decipher which was most appropriate and he often selected the incorrect version. As a result Hugh often found himself confused as opposed to illuminated, something that must have initially offended the sagacity of his master. Those early memories now seemed funny in retrospect, whereas they were frustrating in the moment.

Friedrich raised a white, fuzzy brow, somehow aware Hugh had become distracted.

"Apologies, master." Hugh offered.

The elder man chuckled, "It is not entirely unexpected for a novice to be prone to distractions. Nos Veniam Vitia in Adolescentia. Would you like to discuss where your fancy has taken you? Sometimes it is worthwhile pursuing a thought brought to us not from the rational mind, but from the inspired."

"No," Hugh almost blurted, feeling his cheeks grow flush. Another testament to the growth between the two was that Friedrich had softened somewhat, interpersonally, as Hugh's acumen with theology grew. It seemed a reward that Friedrich would sometimes now treat him less as a novice and more as a peer. Asking about flights of fancy was nonexistent early on.

The man nodded, "Very well. Now, where were we?" He glanced down at his desk. "Ah, yes. If we were to examine the core principles revealed to us by St. Bernard in this treatise-"

"Master Friedrich." Another monk, Guy of Vendome approached. The gaunt man held in his hand a sealed letter. The novice's eyes were drawn towards the wax seal that fastened the letter - mon Dieu! Two crossed keys, the Curia! Guy held out the letter, erect and full of the authority granted a messenger of the holy vicar.

Friedrich nodded and received the letter from his peer, "Thank you, brother."

Hugh perked up and tried to spy the contents as his master broke the seal. Guy too seemed to be rather nosy, as the man retreated somewhat but stayed in the vicinity.

Friedrich began to read, but stopped and smiled. "Brothers, if this information concerns you I will assuredly let you know with haste."

Hugh leaned back, flush once more, and Guy bowed somewhat before exiting the room awkwardly.

The elder monk resumed reading, he mouthed some words early on but stopped as his eyes lowered down the page. Finally, he stopped and put the missive on his desk. The man sighed, "It seems the lessons from St. Bernard will have to wait still. It must be divine providence at this point that we pause our reflection."

"What did it say, master? Was it from the pope?" Hugh asked, forgetting himself.

The elder monk, with restraint, knocked Hugh's head with two knuckles, "Come now, lad."

Hugh apologized, and his master relented. "It seems to me we are due a trip. We must seek our abbot's permission, but it seems to me that is the least of our barriers. Horse and safe passage, provisions, and such must be obtained as swiftly as we are able."

For a peasant-turned-monk whose memories outside the abbey were slim, the excitement inside Hugh that now had built was nearly uncontainable. A chance to explore the outside world beyond just reading about it! He never realized it before now, but on the verge of it becoming reality, Hugh realized how much he yearned to see the lands beyond their abbey. Now he knew he was in fact lucky, for his noviceship with Friedrich was surely the factor in their selection of a holy mission - whatever that may be.

Friedrich must have sensed this as he grinned, "Come now, Hugh, we should not delay in seeking audience with the abbot."

The two men rose to leave, the act caused the letter to fall from Friedrich's grasp. As the elder monk bent over to grab it, Hugh spied a name near the bottom: "Ioanna de Arc."
I.II - The Mercenary, Gerard of Senlis



The Mercenary, Gerard of Senlis

The road to the North had become increasingly safer as Charles VII and the Maid of God pushed the English closer and closer to the sea. The new king had made it his mission to try to end the barbarity that had gripped France ever since the beginning of the wars, and in the process, making her roads safe.

Gerard was an honest man and he tried to tell the abbot that hiring him and his men was unnecessary: the south and center of the country was no longer plagued with brigands or roving warbands at every step. it was only once they reached Paris that they would have to seek protection. Despite his protestations, he was overruled by the holy man and now rode with the pair of Bernadines.

The elder one was somewhat tall but bowed by age. Gerard could tell that behind his eyes was a fierce mind - the man was keenly observant and some of the remarks shared between him and the rest of their party showed he was adept at noticing things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. The boy, for he was little older than a youth, was thin and shorter, not yet grown into manhood. It was through him that Gerard had deduced much of their mission.

The destination was Normandy, more specifically the city of Rouen, that was known. Slowly, over their travel, despite the elder monk trying to silence his companion, the boy had dropped other nuggets of information. His questions of current events, of the tide of war, and of ecclesiastical court proceedings led Gerard to conclude they were heading to Rouen for a very specific purpose.

The elder monk was not the only observant one among their number.

That night, at camp, Gerard overheard an all-but confirmation of his conclusions he did not himself want to believe. The monks were in conference and probably believed themselves quiet enough. Gerard, with his back to them sharing the campfire with his men, was silent as his peers conversed, while he himself listened intently to the conversation behind him. he could not overhear all they said, but he did hear enough to piece things together.

The word that caught and gained his attention was "inquisitor." Slowly, picking up more and more as they conversed, Gerard began to feel unwell. No, not unwell, upset.

He had been at Orleans when the Maid arrived and led them to victory. Sure, he was a mercenary captain who had offered his allegiance at times to opposing sides, but he was stirred by her leadership and began to believe in her cause. While other circumstances had pulled him away from her orbit, he had resolved himself to only employ his services from then on to the rightful King of France and the church. Like her, he would fight for only the holiest and noble cause.

And while the Maid was in the clutches of the English, he had to begun to think both the King and the church had betrayed their most loyal servant...
I.III - In the City of Rouen, Hugh of Murat


In the City of Rouen, Hugh of Murat

Their journey north had been one of building excitement. Friedrich had extolled him to avoid spending too much time thinking about their destination before they arrived and to focus instead on theological pursuits.

Hugh, however, could not help himself. Long conversations into the night often turned to the subject of their journey: Rouen and what was to transpire there. Friedrich warned him that investing too much thought on the secular aspects of the adjutant topics from their cause would be unfitting a monk who renounced prior ties. The wars of the earthly kings were of little import to those considered with beyond this life. Had Hugh even dared considered it, he would have perhaps raised the point that Friedrich had offered council to the Elector Palaniate...

To his great disappointment, they had avoided most cities on their journey, including the grandest of all: Paris. The monk held out hope that it could be at least spied on their return journey. Regardless, Rouen would have to be entered.

Their guardian, the mercenary-soldier Gerard, motioned ahead, "A little further lies the southern gate. We are near the destination."

Friedrich nodded, "Your accompaniment has been most enjoyable, and more importantly, successful. After I meet with the Bishop, you will be compensated the remainder of your fee."

"Think nothing of it. I find purpose in serving the church."

Hugh liked the soldier if for no other reason he seemed as wise as a lay person could be. Perhaps they would contract with him again after their mission had concluded.

In any event, the walled city came into view. Hugh was filled with curiosity, as towers and buildings peeked over the stone walls.

Gerard seemingly noticed his attention and nodded to it, "When the city fell to the English King Henry, they executed a soldier named Alain Blanchard. Have you heard of him?"

Hugh shook his head.

Gerard smiled, "You should have. Every day while the city was under siege by the English forces, Alain would mount the walls in plain sight of the besiegers. He then would hang captured English soldiers down from the walls, dangling over their fellow soldiers."

Hugh's eyes widened, but his master spoke next, "This talk of war is not appropriate right now. Captain, please refrain from the stories of soldiers."

"My apologies," Gerard nodded, "you are correct."

The novice looked up as they entered the gatehouse, imaging bodies hanging above him...


The opulent Bishop of Beauvais was an intimidating figure, a theological master akin to Friedrich. The prelate had been educated by the University of Paris and was one of the most well-known members thereof. Despite any personal feelings as to the loyalties of the University, it was indisputable it was a high place of learning bar none.

The seated bishop did not even bat an eye at Friedrich's letter from the Curia but nodded curtly. He waived a hand full of bejeweled rings, "I was informed prior to your arrival you would be coming. I must be frank with you, Brother Friedrich, I do not see the point of sending additional legates. The only eyes and ears necessary for the Lord's will are my own."

"Undoubtedly." Friedrich offered.

"And yet you are here." The bishop looked down at the papers sprawled across his desk. "It would be foolish of me to doubt the wisdom of the holy father, however. I am, of course, his humble servant and willing to comport always to his commands."

"Your humility is readily apparent," Friedrich said. It had then occurred to Hugh the compliment may have had more than one meaning.

Looking back up he locked eyes with Friedrich, "You may entreat with the accused. Any interference though with the preparations of the trial will be unacceptable. I believe this is clear enough?"

"Of course, your excellency. I am here merely to satisfy curiosity with little impact on your holy mission."

Hugh got the distinct feeling the two men did not like each other.

I. IV - In the Presence of the Handmaiden of God, Jeanne d'Arc


In the Presence of the Handmaiden of God, Jeanne d'Arc

Friedrich gave counsel prior to their entry to the prisoner's quarters. "Now Hugh, we must discuss a few things. Understand primarily we are here under the direction of the Holy Pontiff himself, Martin V. His holiness is keenly aware that our beloved church has not yet begun to heal from the Magnum Schisma Occidentale. There are those, Hugh, who would prefer to see our church plunge once more into chaos. We must safeguard the sanctity of the church, so help us, God.

"Secondly, we do not truly know the nature of this peasant girl. While we as monks must always be on guard of the wiles of the feminine sex, it is even more so with this one in particular. Take my word that the only thing worse than a monk turned to carnal passions by a woman, is a monk turned to carnal passions by a heretic.

"Thirdly, as the 'Bishop,'" the elder monk seemed to emphasize that word, "has so reminded us, we are not to interfere with the trial. Our observation is limited in scope."

Hugh nodded, more anxious to meet the woman than have this discussion.

The elder monk sighed, and seemed to pick up on his counterpart's excitement, "It is my hope my words have not been poured in one ear like water and then out the other. Come then, and be sure to record our words."

The younger monk held his stylus and tablet aloft, as in agreement. Friedrich's right lip curled somewhat when he nodded.

The pair were led into a hallway by a soldier with two more soldiers flanking a doorway.

"She is guarded by soldiers, not nuns?" Hugh ventured.

Friedrich merely nodded in response. The soldier guided the two monks down into a stone room between the other soldiers where a single occupant sat on straw, facing away from them. Friedrich nodded to the soldier who stepped back near the stairwell but did not exit the room.

The Cistercian spoke then, "They say three saints came to you in a vision when you were just a girl. What did they look like?"

Hugh was somewhat perplexed but recorded his master's question faithfully. He looked at the woman, who did not turn to face them.

Her voice was soft and melancholy, but it was resolute and unwavering nonetheless, "First, Saint Michael the Archangel appeared in a blue cuirass. He had about his white wings a scarlet sash that did not seem to rest on him but floated around him. Adorned on his head was a helmet of black steel, trimmed with gold and sporting plumage from a cerulean bird. His face, rimmed by gold ringlets from his head, was more beautiful than any man or woman I have seen before or since. In his right hand, he grasped a sword ablaze, allowing me to identify him.

"Next was the martyr, Saint Catherine, whose head was detached from her body. Despite this grotesque form, she smiled at me and I was comforted. Open wounds adorned her body, but no blood did flow.

"Finally was Saint Margaret the Virgin, who came to me in the form of a dragon, who at once regurgitated her into all her splendor. She and Saint Catherine had between them a banner, of which they gave to me.

"Their presence at once calmed me, and while we were together no hunger nor tiredness affected my body, mind, nor soul. It was a marvelous moment, and our communion was beautiful."

"Ahh..." Friedrich said, "... it does indeed sound beautiful."

Hugh looked up, and the elder man seemed moved. He quickly regained composure when the woman turned, and it was Hugh's turn to be enamored.

It occurred to the monk, at that moment, that Friedrich's second warning was particularly prescient. Her hair, which was reported to be cut short to match a man's, had apparently grown somewhat in captivity. It tumbled onto her shoulders and framed her innocent face. Large, thoughtful eyes, appeared to Hugh as crystalline lakes that provided respite in the heat of summer. Her mouth was opened in question, the lips fair and full. Her form was most assuredly feminine, and not masculine.

Hugh blushed, realizing he did not record what the maiden asked, in response to Friedrich's statement.

"Indeed, I am not a member of the council you are to appear before. My name is Friedrich, and this is my scribe, Hugh. We are brothers of the order of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Our mission was ordained by the pope-"

"The Pope!" Joan rose, standing in excitement. "Then he has heard my plea. He will intervene as Christ's vicar on earth."

Friedrich shook his head, most likely upset at her interruption, "I am afraid you presume too much. His holiness, Martin V, has sent us to raise a few inquiries with you... and not to disturb the Bishop's court."

The young woman looked crestfallen, and she resumed her spot on the floor. "...He has blessed the Bishop's court by not abating him."

The elder monk exchanged glances with Hugh. "I do not wish to persuade your thoughts in any direction, merely to ask a few things of you."

"Then ask; I am at your disposal, Brother."

"You understand what exactly the Bishop will ask of you?"

"Of course and he has already asked much in preparation. I believe the Duchess of Bedford has attested to my virginity. Beyond that, Donremy has been interrogated, has it not?"

Friedrich winced at that, "Quite so. In so many words, you know what the purpose is, however?"

"Do they think me a heretic? A purveyor of falsehoods? A witch? I would swear and swear a thousand times over that I am none of these things they think. They need not form an inquisition of all who have known me, nor defile my body, but merely ask me. I will only speak the truth in the face of any question presented, as our Lord did before Herod and Pilate."

"You know it is not that easy, do you not? An inquisitor, a real inquisitor, does not so boldly inquire. Rather, it is little by little and half-falsehood in conjunction with half-truths that he builds his case."

"I will say no falsehoods." Joan adamantly responded.

Friedrich rose his hands, "Of course, of course. I am trying to tell you, though, that what may seem truthful to you may be twisted against you."

"Then allow it to be so. If I am blinded, God will give me the light to see. If the Bishop is God's instrument, let it be so!"

Friedrich grimaced at that, either at her thoughts or the Bishop of Beauvais being God's instrument; Hugh could not tell.

"I have always believed in the Pope of Rome, has he faith in me?"

The elder monk shook his head, "I do not presume to speak for the pontiff."

"And yet you are his legate here. Just as the pope is Christ's vicar, you are the pope's vicar now?"

Friedrich coughed to clear his throat, "I, erm- not quite. Let us resume my questions."

Joan's brow darkened. "No, I am tired now. You may resume tomorrow." Joan turned, catching Hugh's stare. She offered a quick, sad smile, before turning her back to the monks.

Friedrich stepped forward, "I was not done..."

The woman did not respond, but the two men heard soft whispers. They seemed to realize simultaneously that she had begun to pray, and the monks thought it only right to leave her then to her prayers.

As they exited, whether it be from words or appearances, Hugh was convinced they had been in the presence of a saint.
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