To the hand of Katerina ab Samael;
My dear sister.
Thank you for your letter. Your concern for my safety is touching, even if I know that it is tempered by the good fortune the beginning of my reign has brought our House.
Enchanting, isn’t it, to think of the House of Samael? A year ago, we were mere merchants. Gentrymen who had risen from the mire of the rest of the freemen through the virtue of wit and action, rather than noble blood. Seventy years before that, before we lent our hands to the cause of Queen Richael ab Harmon, our name was worth nothing.
I pray that you don’t let it go to your head. All things have their time, and it is not in our making to know the extent of ours.
But I digress. You wrote about the recent rash of executions and punishments that have flooded the cobbles of River Square with blood. There was a certain glee to your tone, as you discussed the end of Julea Sanguine – I swear, sister, you have the heart of a Vandagan and the tongue of a Vavardi. I ask that you temper both, at least for now.
Death is not a trivial thing, and ordering the death of another is not something undertaken lightly. You have, no doubt, heard the stories about Sanguine and Piuso. It is a tale older than the Tarn themselves. A young holyman, vibrant and bursting with faith and piousness. He takes to the pulpit with a naive vigor, hoping to change the world for the better. And along the way, he falls into the hands of a temptress.
These are the tales that can make a man, or can destroy him. I have not seen Benedictus in many weeks, but I picture him now a bit more haggard, a bit more worn. He may now, finally, have some of the wisdom that age brings in his eyes – but the cost may have been his soul entire. Unlike the heroes of the stories that we are told, our Cardinal did not renounce temptation. He did not find strength in his faith, or feel the hand of the Lord guide his wisdom. Instead, he fell. And for those of us on these, the highest pedestals, the fall can be shattering.
You asked of Sanguine herself. She was a troubled woman, of this I am certain. She had a demon’s touch upon her soul, though whether she bore the mark and the blood of such a beast, we may never know. Did she deserve to be wrent at the limbs like she was? Perhaps. The cleansing flames of the Pyre would have been an infinitely kinder end, allowing the woman some peace as her soul was finally purged of its dark burden. But she was denied that release by the hand of the very man she enchanted.
I watched with something akin to horror, that night, as Benedictus sealed his fate. Remi LeBou was to burn at the pyre, but Sanguine was released – despite the damning findings of the Grand Inquisitor. It was a decision that, with a few simple words, condemned him and Sanguine both. He did Sanguine no kindness by sparing her the Pyre, as it set her on a path for the Reeve’s strong black stallions. There is no cleansing or redemption in a quartering – only the searing agony of being torn apart.
We stand now on a precipice. There are new souls once more at the helm of the Church, and from what I am told, they may have the strength of character to succeed where their predecessor has failed. I pray that that is true. I will not stand as the King that watched the Church crumble and fall away – but I cannot hold the eaves up, myself.
You remember me as a young man, Katerina. You remember when I took my oath, when I earned my sword. I was filled with the vigor of the Lord’s word. What has happened to the Church, that they have lost their way?