The Prisoner of Temple Mount

Set just after the establishing of the Knights Templar, succeeding the First Crusade. ;D I'mma enter this into the Hidden Power comp.

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3. 2 – Purgatory

2 – Purgatory

 

The woman landed in a heap as she was thrown into her newly-made cell, and the door swung shut behind her with a loud creak. The dust rose up as her body made heavy contact with the floor, and the specks floated all around her like tiny sheets of brown paper. She adopted a fetal position, her breathing loud and laboured, trying to block out the pain.

The large red scorch marks lined her back, her bare skin burned from the intense Arabian sunlight and ripped open from the flogging of a harsh whip.

 

Such was her punishment.

 

It happened once a week. The founders had decided that since they could not swear that her death was their right to take, she would die slowly, in her own time. Unfortunately for her, the salt that was rubbed into her wounds succeeding the severe flogging guarded them against infection, thus prolonging the whole affair.

It didn’t make sense to her – that monks should be kept in the cloister away from female contact, when knight-monks could look on a naked woman being punished.

 

Her dress had been reduced to little more than a long vest, and the clothing stank of sweat, blood and putrefaction; and the color could tell an onlooker as much. The woman held tightly to her stomach, digging her nails in, to prevent her from probing the wounds on her back. There was also hunger and thirst. A guard would slide open a compartment at the bottom of the heavy iron door once a day – usually at night – with a tray bearing a small cup of water and a bowl of greyish gruel. The woman shut her eyes tight, groaned as far as her parched throat would allow.

 

Have these people been so far removed from humanity? she thought, Do they not see my suffering? Have they no pity? Mercy? Kindness? Don’t they hear what I say? Don’t they reflect? Are they so blind? A tear escaped her eye, Are all my efforts: to waste?

 

Exhausted and in pain, she used one hand to move the her tangled mess of hair off of her face, and said slowly:

 

High on the mountains and valleys steep,

All through the desert and waters deep,

All things You see and all You know,

All that wither and all that grow.

 

We are a people who’ve been lost,

We are a people who’ve been split.

Show us a way to strike our host.

Show us a way to clear the mist.

 

Old wounds in the tribes and men alike,

Have put all our heads on the pike.

Maker of all, heaven and ground,

Give me the strength to hold my ground.

 

These are a people with no care,

These are a people with no face.

Show us a way to ascend despair,

Show us a way towards Your grace.

 

This is my test, this is my cross,

All in gain and zilch in loss.

But help me so I may be strong:

And then take me back where I belong.

 

High on the mountains and valleys steep,

All through the desert and waters deep.

Show me a place I will not weep;

God, give me peace in my sleep.

 

The woman then sighed with marginal relief. No matter how small, it was something. She acknowledged that the next time will be no easier that this time – if anything it would be far more difficult. If she accepted that now, maybe she could bare her punishment a little easier the same time next week. She closed her eyes, seeing her lost father and mother in their lost home, going about their daily business – content. Slowly, but surely, she fell into deep sleep.

 

* * * * *

 

The woman sat up in her chamber on the Friday morning after her eighteenth flogging. She avoided the sight of her excrement piling up in one of the corners of her cell, as her chapped lips moved slowly in prayer.

The place and circumstance were not ideal, but prayers were prayers. She could not stand without hurting, and she wasn’t fully garbed, but she did well in praying whilst sitting and as covered she could manage. Her prayers comforted her, and gave her a thing to focus on and look forward to – it was far healthier than thinking on her current situation anyway.

 

As she made the salaam, turning her head from right to left. The door of her cell swung open. The man who stood in its wake, wrinkled his nose, but stepped in. He was a founding member, wearing the uniform robes and a chainmail ventail. His thick, knee-high boots made little sound on the dusty floor of the cell. He was dark in countenance for a European – not a chocolaty African dark, but perhaps grey. He looked much more like a Dane than a Frank. She expected the founder to hit her (or worse), but he was gentle in his approach and resolved to keep a respectful distance.

 

“Good morning, Sir Knight,” she croaked, “To what do I owe the honor?”

The man paused, wondering on whether the woman meant it or was being very surreptitious in her sarcasm, and then said, “Mockery, in your position?”

“Am I not permitted to be courteous?”

Were you being courteous?”

She shook her head, “Say your charge and leave me to my misery. It’s no wonder the Arabs despise you – you lack so much in your akhlaaq.”

The man paused again, “The Grand Master has sent me here with an… offering for you.”

“A daily beating?”
The man stared at her.

“Now that was sarcasm.”

“No, not a daily beating. He has granted you a means of freedom.”

“For what price?”

The man unravelled a detailed map of the Holy Land, and pointed at a specific place, “For Tyre. Describe a breach and you are free to go.”

 

The woman regarded the sheet of vellum thoughtfully, before looking up at the founder, “May I ask of your name?”

“Harold of Hereford, Knight Commander of Venice.”

“An Englishman?” the woman smiled, her the cracked skin of her lips moving apart, “My grandfather spoke highly of you.”

“Oh?”

“He said you English fought valiantly against the Normans during and after 1066, at Stamford Bridge and Hastings. You fought for your land, not unlike the way we Muslims fight for ours.”

“You… appear to know much.”

“Your sergeant-at-arms told me of your… discomfort with the Templars.”

“Oh? And how are you aware that this is my sergeant?”

“He mentioned you many times. The deed of your grandfather Hereward of Bourne and your father, Sweyn, against your Norman oppressors in England. That, and that he’d set me free if I gave him a good time.”

“Ah, sounds more like him.”
 

“But the issue of Tyre – here is what I will do. Your Grand Master seeks a breach into Tyre,” she pointed at a place on the map, “Here it is. But I will give you a choice, Sir Harold of Hereford. You can breach Tyre which will lead to the killings of numerous people, whilst freeing me; or you can tell Hugh de Payens that he can suck it and spare them, whilst keeping me his prisoner.”

“Arab… your punishment will be increased if you do not describe a breach.”

 

“Let me worry about my punishment,” the woman rolled up the sheet of vellum and handed it back to Harold, “You focus on doing what is right. The life of one for the life of many, or the life of many for the life of one. Think on your people, and then think on mine. Perhaps there may be an inkling of humanity in you yet.”

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